Page images

the power and favour of eminent virtue, joined with assured belief of the truth, with self-denial and suffering for truth and holiness. By such weapons as these was it propagated against the power, authority, wealth, and armour of the world: against the greatest potentates, most absolute and cruel tyrants, their most crafty counsels, and greatest strength, utmost rage and cruelty, and determined resolutions to put a stop to it. It was propagated against all the strength of the strongest empire that ever was in the world.

§ 9. One principle way wherein the propagation of Christianity is a proof of its truth, consists in its being an evidence of the facts that are the foundation of it. Christianity is built on certain great and wonderful visible facts; such as, Christ's resurrection from the dead, and the great and innumerable miracles wrought by him and his apostles, and other his followers, in Judea, and many parts of the world.-These facts were always referred to, as the foundation of the whole; and Christianity always pretended to be built on them. That Christianity, which, in effect, is no other than the belief of these facts, should be extensively propagated in, and near the places and time when the facts were said to be wrought; when and where there was so much opportunity and advantage to know the truth of the matter; is a great, standing everlasting evidence of the truth of the facts. But as to Mahometanism, it pretends to no facts for its proof and foundation, but only Mahomet's pretences to intercourse with heaven, and his success in rapine, murder, and violence.-Belief of sensible miracles, or public attestations of heaven to Mahomet's authority and doctrines, was no part of his religion; and was not employed in its propagation.

§ 10. If we consider the propagation of Christianity as a doctrine or belief of wonderful divine facts, Mahometanism is not set up in opposition to it: because the Mahometan religion itself acknowledges the principal facts of Christianity, though it has no facts of its own to urge. And so Mahometanism rather confirms than weakens Christianity; and the propagation of Mahometanism itself, may be considered as one thing belonging to the propagation of Christianity, and as a part of that propagation, in as far as it consists in a propagation of a professed belief of those facts. It is so far an instance of the propagation of that which is the foundation of Chistianity, that it proves all the rest. The Alcoran owns Jesus to be a great prophet; "the messenger of God," (Surat. v. 84.) that he wrought miracles, healing a man blind from his birth, and the leprous, (Surat. v. 119.) also raising the dead; and that Jesus as born of Mary was himself a miracle, (Surat. xxiii. 52.) He often speaks of Jesus as the servant and messenger of God; (Surat. iv. 158. iii. 152. iv. 169, 170. v. 84.) Now, owning this,

is in effect owning the whole. This is the foundation of the whole, and proves all the rest. It owns that Jesus was miraculously conceived and born; (Surat. iii. 47. xix. 20. 21.) and without sin. (Surat. iii. 36. xix. 19.)-Mahomet owns Jesus, and ascribes the conception of Christ alone to the power of God, and the inflation of his Spirit.-In Surat. xxi. 19. are these words, as the words of God; "And Mary was a chaste virgin, and We inspired her with Our Spirit, and set up her and her son as a miracle to all ages."-He owned Jesus to be the Messiah foretold in the law and the prophets; Surat. iii. 45. “When the angels said, O Mary, certainly God declares to thee his own word; his name shall be Jesus Christ, the son of Mary:" Surat. xix. 29. Surat. iv. "Certainly Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, is the ambassador of God and his word." He owned Christ's ascension into heaven. "God raised him (Christ) to himself;" Surat. iv. 157. Concerning Christ's miracles, Mahomet says, Surat. iii. 45. v. 119. "God says, O Jesus, the son of Mary, I have strengthened thee by the spirit of holiness; and thou shalt, by my leave, heal a man blind from his birth; and by my leave thou shalt raise the dead from their graves."

§ 11. In this respect the great propagation of the Mahometan religion is a confirmation of revealed religion-and so of the Christian in particular, which alone can have any pretext to be a religion revealed by God-as this is a great demonstration of the extreme darkness, blindness, weakness, childishness, folly, and madness of mankind in matters of religion, and shows how greatly they stand in need of a divine guide, and divine grace and strength for their help, such as the gospel reveals. And that this gross delusion has continued so long to so great an extent, shows how helpless mankind are, under ignorance and delusion in matters of religion; and what absolute need they have of extraordinary divine interposition for their relief. And besides, such a miserable, blind, helpless state of mankind, is also exactly agreeable to the representation made in the Christian revelation.


The Jewish nation have, from their very beginning, been a remarkable standing evidence of the truth of revealed religion.

§ 1. WHEN every other nation under heaven had forsaken the True God, and was overwhelmed in heathenish darkness, the Jews had among them the knowledge and worship of the True God, and rational and true notions of his being, attributes, and works; of his relation to mankind, our dependence upon him,

and the worship and regards due to him. This was upheld among them alone, for so many ages, to the coming of Christ ; while they were surrounded on every side, with nations vastly differing from them, and the worst of idolaters. The whole world beside themselves had forgotten the True God and forsaken his worship, and were all the while involved in gross heathenism. They lived in the midst of the most frequented and most populous parts of the world. They did not live separated from the rest of the world as in an island or a peninsula ; or yet as divided from others by vast deserts, or impassable mountains; but on the continent, in the midst of the habitable world, with populous countries adjoining to them almost on every side. Those nations, who were their next neighbours on every side, were steadfastly gross Pagans, and some of the most barbarous idolaters.

§ 2. They were not a nation that studied philosophy; they had no schools among them under the care of philosophers who instructed their pupils in human science; yet they had most apparently far better, more sublime, and purer notions of God and religion, of man's duty, and of divine things in general, than the best of the heathen philosophers. Nor do they seem to have been a people any way remarkably distinguished from other nations, by their genius and natural abilities. They were a comparatively small people, not a great empire, not a vast and potent commonwealth.

§ 3. Such changes and revolutions frequently came to pass in their nation, and such was their peculiar state from time to time, that they were exceeding liable to be corrupted and overrun with heathenish notions, and the customs of idolatrous nations, and to grow into a conformity to the rest of the world in that respect. They were above two hundred years in Egypt, which may be looked upon as the second nation, if not the first, for being the fountain of idolatry.-And they lived there under circumstances tending the most to their being corrupted with idolatry, and brought to a conformity with the Egyptians in that respect, of any that can be imagined; especially on these accounts:-They were there in the beginning and rise of their nation. There the nation had its birth. grew from one family of about seventy persons, with the father of the whole family at the head of it, to be more than a million of people, yea probably (reckoning male and female,) about two millions. And they lived there, not separate and distinct from the Egyptians; but had continual intercourse with them. Yea, they dwelt there as inferiors, in subjection to the Egyptians; their slaves and the Egyptians who had daily concern with them, were their masters.


§ 4. After they came into the land of Canaan, they for several ages dwelt there with the remains of the ancient heathen

inhabitants, who were so numerous and strong, as sometimes to overcome, and keep them long in subjection: which also, from time to time, their idolatrous neighbours did.-And after they had lived long in the land, ten of their tribes were carried away into final captivity, and heathen inhabitants planted in their stead: by which the religion of the remaining two tribes was the more exposed. At last, these remaining two tribes, with the Levites, and all that were left of the ten tribes who had mixed with them, were carried away into Babylon, the chief city of Chaldea, the country that above all in the world, (at least excepting Egypt,) was the fountain of idolatry: there they dwelt during the time of one generation. So that before any of them returned, the body of the people were a new gene ration, born and brought up in that land of darkness, amongst idolaters, their superiors and masters, and most of them the most honourable men that were then in the world; and a great part, perhaps the greater part of the nation, never returned, but continued dispersed in heathen countries till Christ's com ing. As to the nation in general, those in Canaan, and those out of it, were in subjection to the three successive heathen monarchies, the Persian, Grecian, and Roman; and heathen people belonging to each of those empires, often swarmed in their country.

§ 5. The people seemed to be, from their very beginning till the Babylonish captivity, exceedingly prone to idolatry; were fond, in that respect, of the customs of those heathen neighbours, and were apt to think it honourable to be like the rest of the nations, and a disgrace to be singular. This appears, in that they actually oftentimes apostatized to idolatry, embraced the worship of the heathen gods, and neglected the worship of the true God; and continued sometimes for a long time in their conformity to their heathen neighbours. Yet they were wonderfully reclaimed from time to time; so that they were never suffered finally to apostatize, as all other nations in the world had done, nor were left in their apostacy for so long a space of time.

§ 6. All is the more remarkable, in that not only the true God and his spiritual worship are so infinitely diverse from the gods and religion of the heathens; but the external institutions and rites of worship observed among the Jews, and the law of their worship and religion, were remarkably diverse and repugnant to the religious rites of their heathen neighbours. They were exceedingly opposite to the rites of the Egyptians, among whom they lived so long, and among whom they first became a nation. So were they also to the rites of the ancient inhabitants of Canaan, of the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, &c.

[blocks in formation]

§ 7. The Jews may be considered as a remarkable evidence of the truth of revealed religion, in that they were preserved so long a time a distinct nation from all others, even since their father Jacob's time, till this day; being neither destroyed, nor abolished, nor lost by mixing with other nations. Jacob himself was exposed to be destroyed by his brother Esau, before he was married. His family were greatly exposed to destruction, at least as to any permanent distinction from other people, when Laban pursued after him, with a design probably to kill him, and to bring back his wives and children into Padan-Aram, and to keep them there, or, at least, by some means to carry back his family, and to prevent their ever going to Canaan. He and his family were in imminent danger of being destroyed, when Esau came out against him with four hundred men. His family were greatly exposed to danger by the inhabitants of Canaan, when provoked by his sons destroying the Shechemites. A series of wonderful and miraculous providences respecting Joseph, were the means of preserving the family, without which they would probably either have perished by the famine, or in the time of that famine have wandered away from Canaan, in such obscurity, and under such disadvantages, that they would likely have never returned any more to Canaan ; and so the family would have been broken up.

§ 8. In Egypt they were greatly exposed to be destroyed, when Pharaoh set himself to effect their destruction by drowning all the males. When they had continued so long in Egypt, under such abject circumstances; it could be owing to nothing but a series of the greatest miracles, that ever they were separated from that people and land, so as to return again to dwell by themselves, to be kept a distinet nation. They were in immi nent danger of being swallowed up by Pharaoh and his host at the Red Sea; or of receiving such a blow, as wholly to break up the design of their proceeding to Canaan, to live there. They were exposed to suffer that which would have prevented their proceeding, when the Amalekites met them, and fought with them.

§ 9. Nothing but a course of most astonishing miracles for forty years could have prevented their perishing in the wilder ness, or being obliged to go back again into Egypt, and suffering captivity, dispersion, and ruin, by the nations that dwelt around that wilderness.-They were greatly exposed to be ruined as a people, by the opposition of the Moabites, Midianites, Amorites, and Og the king of Bashan.-That ever they got the possession of Canaan, which was then held by many nations greater and stronger than they, was owing to a course of great miracles, without the intervention of which they must have perished as a people.

« PreviousContinue »